It took two overtimes, but the Bobcats outlasted the Knicks by playing great defense and waiting for timely offense. For the entire fourth quarter, there was plenty of doubt that said offense would ever develop, but the Cats ultimately prevailed, 102-100.
For three-plus quarters, the Bobcats held the Knicks in check and played up to our highest expectations. They dominated New York in the first quarter, jumping out to a 32-13 lead. But then the Cats' lack of offense and front court depth came back to bite them. Tyson Chandler fouled out with nearly 9 minutes to go in the game, forcing Boris Diaw to play center in crunch time against the Knicks' small lineup, and New York came roaring back.
It's not that the Knicks played especially well on offense during that time, but that they started scoring a little better and the Cats' offense totally went cold. Early in the game, everyone scored; no one player shouldered the load. They still weren't all that good, but they were getting to the line and utterly shutting down the Knicks' offense, giving them a big lead. In the fourth quarter, though, they slipped on both ends of the court, to the tune of a 27-13 quarter, and regulation ended with a tie.
Both overtimes were more of the same: Perfectly fine defense, sloppy offense. This is what we should have expected, in the end, but it's no less infuriating to experience it in real time if we know it's coming.
Highlights and room for improvement after the jump:
-- Gerald Wallace and Raymond Felton did not shoot well from the field, but at least they were getting free throws and rebounds. I don't know who's telling Felton he's the designated crunch time scorer, but whoever it is had better quit it. If no one has actually been designated, please make sure it's not Felton, because the dude doesn't score well during the game, let alone when no fouls get called. He scored three times in clutch overtime possessions, but he was a big reason why the offense collapsed at the end of regulation. If only he'd become infatuated with creation instead of finishing...
-- Usage and roles are an open question with this club. Why is D.J. Augustin essentially playing the two when Gerald Henderson is available? Aren't the Knicks the perfect team to play Derrick Brown at the four and Alexis Ajinca anywhere from the three through five for at least a few minutes, because of New York's lack of size? On the front end of a back to back? Against the clearly weaker team of the two opponents? Why are starters playing more than 45 minutes each in such a game?
-- Vladimir Radmanovic has to make shots to be worthwhile. It's his reason for being in the NBA, 0-4 from three doesn't cut it. 2-9 from the field doesn't cut it. Since coming to the Cats, he's been reasonably good about putting the ball on the floor, but he's not nearly good enough at it to make up for a shooting cold spell.
-- Boris Diaw had a Boris Diaw game. 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists. If we're going to be that team no one wants to face, he has to be on his game. It's good to see him back.
-- Stephen Graham redeemed himself somewhat. He still has no business playing more than 20 minutes in an NBA game, but he was reasonably effective when on the floor tonight.
-- The defense stepped up big. To the bitter end, they were solid contesting shots and making the Knicks uncomfortable. If they have a blueprint for success, this is it: Hold even prolific, fast-paced, offenses to around 80 points per game by grinding the pace and relentlessly harassing their scorers. Hope the offense does enough to win.